Hello readers! I’m back! Day two of LTUE has drawn to a close, and I have excellent news!
So, this LTUE has a stock of my books for sale. Or rather, I should say, had. Yesterday they’d asked if I wanted to come by the booth and watch things and help upsell my stock. So I showed up today in the morning when I had a spot of time … and was informed that they had sold out of Shadow of an Empire and only had a few copies left of Axtara – Banking and Finance.
By the end of the day? Well, I don’t actually know since I was at the signing, but a number of people swept by my booth looking for copies, so … Perhaps not!
As you can imagine, this left me in a pretty good mood, which only got better as I went through the rest of the day. Day two I didn’t have any panels to present on, so instead I attended a number of panels, though the number was less than the day before because there were two two-plus hour events I attended (one the signing, the other a longer than average panel you’ll read about below). Still, as always the panels I attended were awesome and loads of fun atop being informative and interesting.
So hit the jump, and let’s get the summary.
Learning from the Apocalypse: How Did We Handle Covid?
You can probably guess the answer here. Interestingly (and one of the reasons I wished to attend), this panel was actually a spiritual sequel to a panel from 2020 which was looking forward at the possibility of an impending pandemic (lucky prescience, basically) and asking “Are we ready? What will we do? How will we handle it?” One of the panelists from that panel was even on this panel.
Oh, and in answer to the question posed by the title: poorly.
So, a few highlights from what they talked about, though a little out of order. First, Hollywood gets pandemics wrong. They do the dramatic “This kills you in minutes” stuff because it’s attention getting and scary, but the far scarier, more real plague is the one that has a long infectious phase—like several weeks—and then kills you quickly right thereafter. Especially if it is a disease that can be asymptomatic while infectious. Which, they noted, COVID can be, which is why it was so dangerous.
They also pointed out that currently COVID was a medium plague, aka not a heavy hitter … though we still handled it extremely poorly. In addition, we don’t know what the long-term effects of it are yet, though we’re seeing a lot of bad signs. And there are plagues—such as the largely buried US Polio plague of the 50s—that leave crippling effects on people for decades due to long-term after-effects that can’t be predicted.
But they were able to point at the dumb stuff that happened during the recent pandemic, such as rushes on things like toilet paper, anti-maskers, and anti-vaxxers, as examples of what happens when social animals panic and react in ways that don’t make logical sense … and that ultimately make things worse. They pointed as well at social channels, and how desperate social people were for contact even after only a few weeks.
Now, they did talk about some recommendation stuff outside of COVID. Books they recommended about other pandemics, etc. According to one panelist, Station Eleven is the scariest pandemic story they’ve ever read. Another panelist suggested a non-fiction book, The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Civilization in the aftermath of a Cataclysm by Lewis Dartnell for those looking to write about downfalls brought about by plague and what might happen afterward.
Oh, a side note that came from this panel that one panelist pointed out: Look how much of human society is focused around schools. When is traffic at its highest? Schools? Where do we distribute vaccines? Schools. Etc.
On varying forms of government and how they affect a story
So this panel was a bit different than I expected. It was a more a presentation than a panel, with two presenters pulling out a plethora of different books to show quotes and excerpts, combined with summary, to show the audience how various novels and series have used and investigated the way various governments function, form, and work.
So, for example, this included a quote from one book that was, roughly, “Democracy is not a form of government. It’s a state of mind, and you cannot force people into it.” They pulled out several series of books that showed off how each nation will be impacted by its own government, and therefore will be different in culture and approach, even if their neighbor would otherwise be identical save that their form of governance is different. In other words, build what sort of government your nations have, and figure out how they work. They’ll impact the culture of their people from top to bottom!
They also pointed out this is why governments make such good villains or even just plot forces to move heroes. They’re big, have a lot of power, and can have a large amount of control over where things are going, depending on what kind of government they are.
They also pointed out that where a lot of books go wrong is getting too into this and getting lost in the weeds. Don’t go overboard. But also, do look for ways people will try to acquire power in any form of government, because people will. No matter how strange the course.
But there were two last points this presentation shared that I want to share with you. The first is that fiction allows us to poke at, prod with, and explore ideas that people may find odd, strange, or even uncomfortable. So we should! Fiction is meant for exploring!
And as a second follow-up to that: DON’T just limit ourselves to human administration when we have ‘dragons and aliens out there!’
Panel 3: What’s recent that will be a classic in a hundred years?
So … I’ll admit that I didn’t quite agree with the two panelists for this panel (the third, sadly, had mixed up their schedule and showed up as the panel ended, while the fourth was victim to a delayed flight). For starters, both agreed that the recent Hugo Award winners Ancillary Justice and The Broken Earth Trilogy were both obviously going to be classics, while the Hugo Awards have actually done a historically poor job of picking classics (a Sci-Fi Subreddit actually tracked this out over fifty years and found that the Hugo Awards almost never predict what people remember in ten years, much less becomes a classic, and actually perform the inverse with books that they snub or pass on ending up classics more often than not).
So yeah, I don’t agree that either of those book series will be classic in a few decades, to say nothing of being remembered at all by most. They’re already falling out of favor in a lot of places as the hype of the marketing sheen fades, and well …
What likely will be a classic? The Martian, which was suggested and then backed up by notes about how it blew the doors off publishing. This was then backed up again later when I ran into the third panelist and they pointed out that the book is already being taught in schools … pretty much cementing it alongside its place in the history books.
Other books that were discussed included The Wheel of Time (fairly likely) and Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, though currently the former more than the latter (it’s just too recent). Harry Potter was suggested, though noted that the controversy around Rowling could damage it.
But what makes a classic? The panel talked about this too. And largely concluded that it wasn’t a panel of “experts” like many think (despite postulating the Hugo Award winners as good places for classics earlier). One panelist suggested that looking at what schools teach that’s new may be a good place to look for classics in the making. And then later it was pointed out that schools are already teaching The Martian in this fashion.
Personally? I think the best sign that a book is truly a classic is when it survives and rises above its contemporaries despite having little of the fanfare pushing it that the others do. Like The Martian, which succeeded despite a huge amount of media silence concerning it and spread basically by word of mouth until it was just too well-regarded to ignore. As noted above, a lot of books we now consider classics, like The Lord of the Rings or Dune were snubbed or even insulted by the establishment originally and had to fight against the odds. While books that were lauded and lifted by critics have an easy path to public awareness … but then end up standing on that praise rather than on their own strength.
Hands on with Arms and Armor:
Okay, this one is less talk and more feel. Because this presentation included, among other things, a 4500 year old bronze spearhead, a Celtic spearhead dating from 1100 BC, actual suits of armor, dozens of combat-ready replica weapons of everything classic longswords, claymores, crossbows …
Here, I’ll give you a few images.
Yeah, this panel was awesome, and delivered by a very scottish gentleman who had a story and a joke for almost everything in his collection. Oh, and he quite seriously pointed out the price of some of the things in his collection, which was not small in the slightest, since much of this stuff was the real deal or a combat ready recreation (and not of low-quality materials either).
There were also neat facts in there. Did you know that the most successful sword of all time was the Egyptian Khopesh? It’s true! It was used for over 1700 years, and through the bronze, copper, and iron ages. New fact for the day!
Settling and Colonizing Asteroids and Moons
I was a few minutes late to this panel but it was interesting. When I walked in, they panel was discussing how we do not know currently the long-term health impacts of living in low gravity … and even no-gravity can have a lot of bad effects like morphing the eyeball over time. We’re used to gravity, and if you take that away or lower it … we’re not sure what might result! Though we’re soon to find out!
Of course, this led to discussion on spinning asteroids for “gravity” and the inevitable concern of “asteroids are not pure, so spin it up before you move in.”
Now, the panel did note that you really need a solid reason to move to an asteroid. As they pointed out it’s “to be where the mining/research/gain is” or “because you want to be a hermit.” There isn’t much else of a reason to do so.
At this point, they also questioned bringing mined materials back to Earth, as if we can mine asteroids, we’ll probably want the material there save for rare materials we need here. In other words, depending on what it is you might not want it, or may find it cheaper to just find on Earth if it’s needed there. A lot of this, the panel pointed out, came down to cost of energy for transport. Additionally they were quick to point out that how much you bring back can effect the cost too by possibly crashing a market (or, as one panelist suggested with dark overtones, you learn from the diamond market).
The last few things that stood out to me from this panel? A statement that comets are great for terraforming, plus a peeve from one panelist that so many Sci-Fi books, and they did call out a very popular series for this, forget that planets move. In orbits. They act as though they are nicely lined up when in fact, they have very different orbits and the distance between Jupiter and Saturn can be “small” in orbital terms or almost as wide as their orbits if they’re at opposite points.
Lastly? One way or another, all the panelists agreed that it is very likely that we will find out in our current lifetimes, and this was a very cool thing to be watching.
And that’s it! Why? Because after this was the book signing, and well … I’ll just say I consider it a huge success. It ran for several hours, I didn’t make it home until after ten, and now … I leave you with this picture.
Good night, folks. One more day of LTUE to go!